Forrest Gump

Robert Zemeckis, USA, 1994


This sequence shows how, whilst in an American military hospital, Forrest, a man on the autistic spectrum, considered simple by his comrades, discovers a remarkable ability to play ping-pong by accident, which will lead him to a glorious international career. Rather than choosing to film Forrest playing competitively, Zemeckis chooses to film Forrest confronting his handicaps. From the start of the shot the filmmaker allows us to believe that he’s playing against an opponent just out of shot. When we see the reverse of the shot we discover that he’s training alone, sending the balls into an inert, empty container. We then see him playing with several bats and several balls, hitting them off of a wall, as he mechanically hits them back again. Later still, when his abilities have reached global notoriety, his adversaries are never really in the image itself, of for Forrest himself. 

These scenes have nothing to do with the shared enjoyment of the game. Forrest plays ping pong in an autistic fashion, strictly following the first piece of advice he received from the soldier who put the bat in his hand, “No matter what happens, never take your eye off of the ball”.

To film these examples of extreme skill the filmmaker resorted to special effects. The actor pretends to hit the balls, while the balls themselves were added in postproduction.